• TOO September Buck of the Month: Mike Cottis' Opening Weekend

    Congrats to Mike Cottis on being the September BOTM here on TOO! Mike's great opening weekend buck is the kind of deer we all seek to let the air out of come opening weekend. His story is sure to stoke the fire inside that has been slowly building steam all summer long! Thanks to Mike for putting together such a great story with several great pictures to go along with the read. Simply a great way to lead the TOO brotherhood into the season!!!

    The 2010 deer season started off earlier for me than usual. I had done scouting in the past, but nothing like this... I finally had trail cameras! So my season of scouting became much more than road scouting and I was thankful as the property I was hunting did not have easy access to scouting at all. The property is all woods with only old logging roads to navigate quietly through the woods. For the past few years, I'd had a heck of a time learning the property and the trail cameras provided a big boost in deer sightings before hunting season rolled around.

    The only drawback was that I was extremely busy with my son's fall baseball flag football seasons, so I was late hanging stands. Once mid-September rolled around, the bucks began showing up on camera. My dad (age 72), who routinely checked the cameras while I was at work, began sending me pictures via email of some shooters in the area. Of course my blood started pumping. The season was rapidly approaching and I was yet to hang a stand! It was killing me knowing that I was getting the following pictures...

    A very nice 10 point and a sweet droptine buck. The dates show the latest pic being September 19…

    As soon as I get these pictures sent to me I immediately call my dad and tell him I need to get my stands hung pronto! The 10 was nice and I would shoot him, but I had my sites set on the droptine. Unfortunately, this would be the first and only pictures of him…

    Then my dad, who is retired and bored (God bless him), makes another trip into the woods. Now mind you, I'm asking him in a nice way to stay out of the woods and leave it alone until we can get in to hang the stand, but he's too curious and so am I. I was always hoping for more pictures of the droptine. It is decided that we will go on Saturday (opening morning) and hang my stand in the spot of the camera. I truly hadn't had time to do anything until that day.

    So my dad, my two boys (Kody and Klay), and myself venture into the woods on opening morning to get to work. I'm already extremely angry with myself for my lack of prep and I am not happy about missing opening morning, but I had to do what I had to do. As we get ready to walk into the woods I tell my boys to be extremely quiet and cooperate with me. They were 8 and 10 at the time and having two boys be quiet and cooperative is damn near impossible.

    As soon as we get to the spot we check the camera one last time. I am looking through the pics and I tell my dad, "You ain't going to believe this.... There is another giant and he was here yesterday and this morning!" I am beyond angry with myself at this point. If I had been set up and on stand I would've had a crack at a buck that had never been seen yet and would've been my biggest to date. I immediately fall in love with this buck and his double split brows and height.

    I set my anger aside and got to hanging my ladder stand. We put it together and get the stand against the tree. I climb the ladder and begin putting the ratchet straps on when I hear my boys making all kinds of ruckus... laughing, carrying on. I look down at them and they are both peeing all over the place and laughing about it the whole time. I hurry down the tree and ream them out about how they are going to screw the spot all up (as if I hadn't done that already). As if on cue both boys begin to cry and apologizing because they don't want to mess things up for dad. The damage is done now and I hurry back to finish hanging the stand, cut shooting lanes, and get everything ready. I remember telling my dad, "I'm coming here tomorrow morning. I'll be in stand by 5:30 in case he comes in early again and I'll be on him."

    The whole evening my dad and I are on the phone. He keeps asking me which deer I want. I keep asking myself the same thing... do I want the split brow buck? YES! Do I want the droptine buck? YES! Do I want the big 10? YES! I tell my dad that if I had the choice between the three I think I would take the split brow, but I'm going to shoot the first buck that shows because any of them would be my biggest to date. Why did I like the split the best? I really don't know, but it just struck me as gnarly looking.
    After the previous days events in the woods, I never thought in a million years he, or any other deer, would come back for awhile if at all. The morning of September 25 was a nice cool morning. I remember getting out of my truck and the air had a nice crisp early fall feel to it. I got dressed and smoked up getting ready for my first hunt of the season. There was no breeze, but everything was still wet from the dew so the walk in was perfect. I got to my tree a good 30 minutes before any hint of light. I hung my bow on the tree and settled in.

    It wasn't long after settling in, I could hear some footsteps coming from my front. Slowly emerging out of the very pale light were three bodies... I brought my binoculars up and it's a doe and two fawns. They fed below me for about 10 minutes and slowly began moving off to my left when movement catches my eye ahead of me about 75 yards. I glance at the last remaining doe to make sure she's not looking my way... her head is down... so I pull the binoculars back up. All I see is a body meandering back and forth. I stayed focused on the deer and up came his head.... It's the split brow buck! "It's HIM!" I think loudly to myself. I immediately put the binoculars down and try to find the doe that was still hanging around. She's gone... she must have wondered off as I was watching the buck.

    I slowly reach for my bow, put my release on the loop and try to stand up. My whole body is shaking. Now is when the mind games begin. I'm telling myself to calm down and don't mess this up. I take a deep breath and try to relax as the buck inches closer to me like I have him on a string. He is on a direct beeline to my tree as if it were the middle of the rut and I just hit a grunt call and hit one of his nerves. However, I was completely silent and he was just moving naturally.

    He is closing the distance fast and I'm thinking that this can't really be happening. Then, as if fate made him... he stops 20 yards slightly quartering away right below me. I draw my bow... he takes a few steps as I'm drawing and is now behind a branch that I did not clear and he stands there for what felt like an eternity. I'm at full draw and waiting for that one step that I need, but he's frozen with his head down crunching acorns. I can't hold any longer and decide I have to let down. I slowly let the bow off as I could hear him crunching and I wait. About 5 minutes later he finally begins moving again, however he turns so he is even more quartering away from me and the one branch is still in the way of the vitals.

    Finally, as if I could sense his next move, he begins to walk to my right more and I draw at the same time... one more step... I lean slowly out to my right of the stand to try to get a clear shot before he decides he's in danger... finally I have a small opening. Aiming with my 20 yard pin I let it go... THWACK!!!! He mule kicks and takes off down over the hill like his butt is on fire and tail between his legs. Now the uncontrollable shaking takes over and I'm pumping my fist like I'm on TV or something.

    I sit down immediately and just listen... I hear running all the way down the creek bottom and a little up the other side. Then... silence. I try to take a deep breath, but it's more like I'm stuttering for air. I can't comprehend what just happened. I start second guessing myself. Did I miss???? I heard a loud crack and was concerned I hit a tree or something. I get my binoculars out and start scanning the impact area and I see my arrow sticking in a little dead piece of wood. NOOOO! I examine the arrow through my binoculars and see it's covered in red... let the fist pumping begin again! Relief sets in a bit as I figure it must have been a pass through.

    I did everything against the unwritten book of rules, yet this buck made a possible fatal mistake anyway. I gather myself and climb down the tree, knowing the buck is out of ear shot, to examine the arrow. It is completely covered. I immediately get my phone out and call my number one scout and fan, my dad.

    My exact words to my dad were (in a whisper), "Hey!, I just smoked the split brow buck!" He can't believe it. It was 7:30AM on morning two of the season and, like clockwork, the buck came back again. He asks what I want him to do to help and I tell him to come one over and walk down to my stand where we will start the recovery trail. From his house to the spot is a good 45 minutes so by the time he gets ready it will be at least an hour before we start looking.

    The blood was scarce at first. In fact, we found very little until we got about 50 yards from the impact spot. I couldn't figure it since it was a pass through and the arrow was red like I dipped it in a can of paint. It took us about 30 long minutes before we found the first blood, but after we found it we didn't have much of a problem. We followed it down into the creek bottom and up the ther side of a steep hill out of the creek. Once he started running uphill the blood was spraying everywhere. We finally caught up to him on an old logging road and I just couldn't believe my eyes. He had expired awhile before and I was just beside myself.

    I finally got to put my hands around the split brow!

    As you can see in the pic below it was a high hit on his left side, but the exit wound on the other side was right where it needed to be. With him slightly quartering away and on a downward slope from me it was a pretty steep shot...

    His rack up close revealed all kinds of cool stickers and points...

    This article was originally published in forum thread: TOO September Buck of the Month: Mike Cottis' Opening Weekend "Split Brow Stud" started by Jesse View original post